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New Market City Caffe Holiday Menu Celebrates A Quarter Century

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(Gerry Furth-Sides) Veteran propiertors & Wine Makers, Sal Casola Jr and Chipper Pastron, bring back Market City Caffe‘s annual Holiday Menu with Ala Carte Italian dishes large enough to share, both back by popular demand and new, at their most sumptuous ($8-$28) through December 24. Editing note:  I already took out the description “rich” for the decadent dishes as many times as I could.

Seasonal cocktails sound like desserts from Apple Cinnamon Old-Fashioned to Holiday Gingerbread White Russians.  They are perfect to sip while looking through the long menu of Soup, Salad and Antipasti; Pastas and Specialty Dishes and Pumpkin Cheese Cake dessert.  Vegan and Gluten-Free options are plentiful.

This family-run Italian caffè was carefully created 25 years ago by friends and co-partners, Chipper and Sal, carefully using their decades of on-the-job experience to present a cutting-edge concept of the time.  I know. I was there when their first Market City Caffe opened  in Pasadena.

Then and now, I marvel because they make the exceptional look so easy: consistent, straightforward and appealing food; service (the employees are also so happy you can feel it) and an engaging ambiance.  Even the open kitchen is part of the party here.

An antique scale – and hospitality – takes Market City Caffe guests back to a leisurely time

Sal initially collected hearty Italian recipes from his 22 Italian aunts and uncles.  The food has always been made from scratch and the two found a way to keep the concept fresh and inviting for a quarter century.  For example, the kitchen prepares Osso bucco with lamb shank, while the more traditional version uses veal.

A huge welcome from hostess Kara at the front desk.

So let’s talk food first.   The Holiday Menu begins with a sumptuous Soup, Salad and Anti-pasti section, followed by Pastas & Specialties and Dessert.  “Sumptuous” is key here; even the salads have an abundanza feel to them.

Roasted Chestnut Soup arrives with a crisped prosciutto center and swirls of chive-infused oil rippling out around it.  Rave reviews from me as the best, richest, most interesting and beautiful version of any chestnut dish, soup or otherwise.

The Composed Pear Salad continues to be one of the most popular dishes on the menu.  It shows off local ingredients in a sweet-savory manner.  Lemon oregano dressing runs through the  candied walnuts, shaved Point Reyes blue cheese and pomegranate seeds.

Market City Caffe is so proud of its housemade pastas. The kitchen wanted us to try the Stuffed Pasta Shells with wild mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella, truffle oil, ricotta and Parmesan cheese in a silky cream sauce. Here manager, Jesus Abraham, shaves a light sprinkling of Parmesan over it for us.

Next,  out comes the richest (sorry!) dish and most famous in Italian lore, the Carbonara – original a chef’s late version of “bacon and eggs.”  Winter Squash Rigatoni Carbonara with sautéed onion, pancetta, sage, supreme nuggets of kaboucha squash and pancetta dotted through the pasta amidst  egg yolk skin, all coated in a white wine cream sauce and seasoned with that intriguing, mellow taste of sage.  It is light and yet decadent at the same time.  Bravo!

Then imagine being surprised with this dish next!  The cioppino  “Fish Stew” sets a new city standard.  It is a showpiece of Succulent whole lobster tail, mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and red snapper next in a light red tomato sauce.  The chefs place the baguette ends almost in the “soup”, a hint to use them to soak up broth.

Pumpkin Cheesecake lived up to its festive holiday version, light and moist right down through the crust.  The cake was topped with a fluffy Creme fraiche drizzled with caramel sauce – paired with a Fair Trade coffee espresso. 

Situated near Burbank Town Center, the large, almost cavernous restaurant is still personal and friend.  It is divided into a bar area (food not alcohol reigns supreme here, though, Chipper told us!) A seat near the long windows at this corner location, or outside on the patio, is perfect for people watching.  A string quartet plays during Sunday brunch.

Guests are welcome to unlimited trips to the seasonally changing antipasto bar along one front window.  I have a food friend who prefers ordering this way her every visit “for the variety.”


Please excuse me, my mouth is watering just remembering our meal.  I’m finishing the rest of the packed up leftover dishes now.

To learn more about the restaurant and menu, please visit Market City Caffe’s website or call at 818.840.7036.


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Gerry Furth-Sides

Gerry Furth-Sides

Content Editor/Columnist

Photo-journalist Gerry Furth-Sides has been covering the ethnic and American culinary scene in California since it first came into prominence 25 years ago.